There’s no argument that consistently following a good diet, sticking to a solid workout routine and sleeping enough is the path to a great body. However, supplements do have their place and can give bodybuilders and fitness aficionados the edge they need in the gym. Here is a look at the best muscle building supplement options.
Getting an adequate amount of protein from food is more than possible, but can be expensive or impractical. This is why a lot of people turn to supplements such as whey protein to meet their daily requirements to build muscle. However, what many people fail to realize is that there are multiple protein types which serve different purposes. Whey protein is the cheapest and is great for getting quick protein throughout the day (including pre/post workout). However, other options include:
- Casein Protein – is a slow releasing protein and is ideal for those who are going long periods without protein (such during sleep).
- Whey Isolate Protein – is a better quality protein than regular whey concentrate as it absorbs quicker and contains less sugars for those who are trying to cut fat or make lean gains.
- Hydrolysate Protein – is the most expensive protein available which is even more efficient when it comes to absorption than isolate and is also easier on the digestive system.
- Soy Protein – is an option for vegetarians looking to supplement their diets and is stacked with amino acids such as glutamine, arginine and BCAA’s.
There are also other proteins available such as egg albumin and milk protein isolate. It’s in your best interest to learn more about each of them to find the perfect protein or blend of proteins (some manufacturers offer a mixture in one tub) for your needs.
Creatine is considered by many as the best muscle building supplement next to protein, and is hugely popular. It’s a natural substance usually acquired from meat and fish products. When consumed it turns into creatine phosphate in the body, which helps regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is provides the energy required for muscle contractions. Those who take creatine can maintain a higher intensity in the gym (or in other sports) for a longer period of time, get better muscle contractions and also recover quicker. As a result, it can lead to larger gains in muscle mass and strength.
There are a variety of creatine products. Some people prefer to use the monohydrate powder which requires a loading phase (20 grams each day for a week or so), and then a maintenance phase (3-5 grams per day). However, there are many other types (including blends), some of which can be taken in pill form and don’t require loading. As with many muscle building supplements, it’s a good idea to try a few different types to see which works best for you. It’s also worth mentioning that not everyone responds to creatine.
Multivitamins and Healthy Fats
While multivitamins won’t make you swole so to say, they will help ensure you get any nutrients that are missing from your diet. This will help ensure your body is more efficient, and of course healthier which will mean you get more days in the gym instead of your sick bed. Healthy fats such as omega 3 and 6 are vital for the body’s metabolic and hormonal functions, and play an integral role in muscle recovery. While you often need a lot more fats than those found in a pill, it’s important not to go too overboard with multivitamins – stick to the recommended daily allowance. To learn more about what macros (fats, proteins and carbs) you need for your goals, you can use our macro calculator.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
You may often see bodybuilders take a handful of white pills before and after working out. The chances are that these are branched chain amino acids (or BCAA’s), which play an important role in building muscle. While the body needs a number of amino acids to build and repair muscle, 8 cannot be made by the body and need to be consumed through food or supplements. BCAA’s consist of three of the most important essential amino acids which include leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Bodybuilders take branched chain amino acids while working out to serve as a fuel source and to prevent catabolism (which is the muscles themselves being broken down to serve as fuel). While BCAA’s are common in pill form, there are also powdered versions which can be mixed with water. One product that is popular is Xtend which is available in a variety of flavors and also includes glutamine.
There is a lot of controversy over whether testosterone pills are among the best muscle building supplements. The fact of the matter is that some are better than others when it comes to building muscle. The key ingredients in these products usually include tribulus terrestris as well as others from around the world such as maca, avena sativa, muara puama and so on. It’s a good idea to try find unbiased reviews of any products you’re interested in trying as they can be expensive. At best, these products will never be as effective as anabolic steroids so it’s important to manage your expectations.
There are countless other products that are touted as the best supplements for muscle building. While some of these certainly have a place and can help people to reach their goals, most are simply marketing ploys. People who are serious about putting on mass should focus first on the fundamentals (diet/exercise) and slowly add supplements to see what works for them. There will never be a substitute for good habits and consistency.